Davutoğlu defends NATO missile shield decision

A demonstrator shouts slogans during a protest against NATO's planned missile defense shield, in İstanbul in November.

January 01, 2011, Saturday/ 16:59:00

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has defended Turkey’s decision to support NATO plans to build a missile defense system, saying it will also contribute to national defense against the growing threat of ballistic missile proliferation.

The foreign minister, responding to a formal question from an opposition deputy, also said the alliance has not yet made any decision on where to deploy elements of the planned system. “A decision made in principle to build a NATO missile defense system has not specified which countries will host elements of this system,” Davutoğlu said.

Turkey formally backed the planned system during a summit of NATO leaders in Lisbon in November. The summit came after months of discussions between Turkey and mainly the US over some aspects of the planned shield, most notably whether countries such as Turkey’s neighbors Iran and Syria will be named as potential threats. Ankara insisted that the proposed system should provide protection for all territories of member states and that reference to any country would undermine the defensive nature of the planned shield by antagonizing the country or countries singled out as a threat. Turkish insistence paid off in the end as the NATO summit endorsed the missile defense system plans without naming any country as a potential threat.

Davutoğlu, responding to the question from Süleyman Yağız of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), said NATO’s plans to develop its ability to counter threats from ballistic missiles were not new, dating back to the late 1990s. Proliferation of ballistic missiles is one of the most serious threats facing NATO in the next 10-15 years, said Davutoğlu, noting that the purpose of establishing a NATO-wide missile defense system was to eliminate risks and threats emanating from the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

“This system serves our policy against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. We have already been working on plans to take measures on a national scale against the missile threat and develop a national missile defense system,” Davutoğlu said in his response on Friday. Turkey has long been working on plans to develop its national capability against long-range missile attacks. Turkish officials have said they were looking for ways to make sure NATO’s missile defense system plans also reduce costs of the national project.

The proposed system would integrate battlefield missile defense networks already in use in the US and some other allied nations to provide basic coverage from attack by ballistic missiles. Davutoğlu said Turkey’s national interests were taken into full account at every level of the negotiations that preceded the Lisbon summit. “This project which will contribute to Turkey’s defense is an important initiative that rests on the principle of building NATO deterrence on defensive systems rather than offensive measures,” said Davutoğlu.

The United States would foot most of the bill for building and operating the shield over Europe. The combined cost for other NATO members to link to the system is projected to be about $200 million over 10 years, according to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

There were reports that Turkey is seen as a top candidate to host the planned system’s radars. But Turkish officials have said there was no decision on the location of NATO missile shield elements and that there was no timetable as to when negotiations on this question could be completed.

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